Guest blog by Aaron Hecht
Brothers and sisters, let me get right to the point.
Too much of the prayer, money, effort and energy Christians send to Israel to help this country is either wasted or it goes to things that oppose the Kingdom of Jesus Christ instead of helping it. It’s long past time for that to change. If you love Israel and the Jewish People, there are some Hard Truths which will be painful, but vitally important, for you to become aware of if you want to help them.
Hard truth #1 is this; most of the Jewish people living in Israel today don’t believe in God.
Even among those who say they do, and/or are living a religiously observant lifestyle, the god they believe in doesn’t much resemble the God described in the Bible, a book that few of them ever read.
Secular Jewish Israelis (who make up around 2/3 of the population) don’t read the Bible for the same reason secular people everywhere don’t read it, while religiously observant people don’t read it because they’re been told all their lives that only the rabbis can correctly interpret the Bible so all ordinary people can do is read the commentaries rabbis have written about the Bible. Because they are thus kept away from the Bible, most ordinary Jewish people never develop their own relationship with the God of the Bible and they give whatever holy reverence they feel to their rabbis and not to God.
However, many Christians come to Israel thinking that the religiously observant Orthodox Jews and their rabbis are their natural allies while the secular Israelis are, at best, a neutral group on which efforts at engagement would be a waste of time. This leads to a lot of misspent time and money and misdirected effort. I would put this at the top of the list of things which needs to change if the situation in this country is ever going to improve, which leads to Hard Truth #2.
Hard truth #2, the modern Nation State of Israel is wallowing in DEEP unrighteousness and sin.
This shouldn’t surprise anyone, for the Apostle Paul talks about it in Romans 9:27-29 saying;
“Isaiah cries out concerning Israel, “Though the number of the sons of Israel be like the sand of the sea, it is the remnant that will be saved; for the Lord will execute His word on the earth, thoroughly and quickly.” And just as Isaiah foretold, “Unless the Lord of Sabaoth had left to us a posterity, we would have become like Sodom, and would have resembled Gomorrah.”
Sodom and Gomorrah indeed. Tel Aviv is one of the world’s most gay-friendly cities and the Israeli Ministry of Tourism spends almost as much money trying to attract homosexual tourists to come to Tel Aviv as it does trying to attract Evangelical Christian pilgrims to come to Jerusalem and the Galilee. It’s astounding to think about, but these two groups of tourists manage to largely avoid each other in this tiny country they’re all visiting at the same time.
The “remnant” being mentioned in this passage are the Messianic Jewish Believers, and we are a TINY remnant in Israel, although the numbers are growing quickly. That’s good news, but I’m afraid it has very little to do with anything Gentile Christians outside Israel are doing, and that leads to Hard Truth #3.
Hard truth #3; Most of the efforts made by Christians to share the Gospel with Jewish people in Israel is either a complete waste of time and resources, or in many cases actually counter-productive, despite unquestionably good intentions.
There are many reasons for this, but they all grow out of a basic misunderstanding of the Israeli Jewish mentality and how different it is from the mentality of most Jewish people who live in the Diaspora. Gentile Christians naturally think that the Jewish people living here are more or less the same as the Jewish people they know who live near them in North America, Europe, South Africa, etc. so, they relate to them in the same way.
But Jews in the Diaspora are minorities living amongst a much larger population of non-Jews, whereas Israeli Jews are the majority living in their own country. This leads to vastly different attitudes and orientations about many things. In order to reach Jewish-Israelis for Christ and otherwise be a blessing to them, we must give them what they actually need, not what we think they need.
There are a great many people in the Philo-Semitic/Christian Zionist/Hebrew Roots movement who think that living a “Torah Observant Lifestyle” will make Jewish people more open to the Gospel.
They think that when Jewish people see you eating kosher and spelling the name of the Creator “G-d” and calling Him “Hashem” and all that, then they’ll react by being curious about Jesus and the New Testament. If they see you studying the Talmud and asking them to discuss the commentaries of famous rabbis from the Middle Ages, that’ll REALLY make them hungry for the Gospel!
The one thing you must NEVER do, according to this line of thinking, is “offend” a Jewish person by telling them that studying the Talmud, eating kosher, etc. won’t do them any good but that the only way they can ever come into the presence of a holy and righteous God is by accepting the sacrifice for their sins that Jesus Christ made when He died on the cross.
That must NEVER be so much as MENTIONED (!!!) when talking to a Jewish person, otherwise they’ll be “offended” and not want to talk to you anymore, in which case they’ll NEVER hear the Gospel.
There are those who say they’ve had success bringing Jewish people to faith in their Messiah by using these kinds of methods and maybe it’s true. But I’ve never met a Jewish person in Israel who came to faith in their Messiah because a tallit-wearing Gentile Christian informed them that “Yeshua is my Cohen HaGadol” (high priest) and asked to study Talmud with them all while avoiding talking about the blood of Christ and His sacrifice on the cross.
Let me tell you what DOES work here in Israel.
When someone tell Israeli Jews the truth about God, their Messiah, the Talmud, the Rabbis and the Bible, without worrying about offending them, that works. It works brilliantly.
I know because I’ve met hundreds of Israeli Jews who came to faith by this method. Because of it’s application by One for Israel Ministry and the Bible Society and others (full disclosure, I do not work for either one of those ministries although I have a lot of friends who do) more Israeli Jewish people have come into the Kingdom of God and His Son Jesus Christ in the last few years than at any time since the first century when the church was launched by the original apostles.
Once again, this should not surprise anyone.
In Romans chapter 9:30-33 Paul wrote;
“What shall we say then? That Gentiles, who did not pursue righteousness, attained righteousness, even the righteousness which is by faith; but Israel, pursuing a law of righteousness, did not arrive at that law. Why? Because they did not pursue it by faith, but as though it were by works. They stumbled over the stumbling stone, just as it is written, “Behold, I lay in Zion a stone of stumbling and a rock of offense, and he who believes in Him will not be disappointed”
Did you hear that? The Gospel of Jesus Christ is an “offense.”
Gentile Christians don’t want to “offend” Jewish people and it can be assumed that Jewish people don’t want to be offended.
But. That. Is. What. Needs. To. Happen.
Have you ever thought about how it must look to an ordinary Jewish-Israeli person who sees a Christian pastor and the group of pilgrims he’s leading fawning over Orthodox rabbis and listening in rapt attention to every word they say, no matter how out of line with Scripture it might be?
Do you think it makes them jealous? Do you think it makes them curious? Do you think it makes them want the kind of relationship with God that you have?
In my experience and observation it absolutely does not.
What DOES provoke them to jealousy is when they see a Christian person living without fear, in hope, in joy and in love because they’ve got a relationship with the Jewish Messiah. It makes them jealous when they see that Christian people read the Jewish Bible for themselves and can understand and apply it without the assistance of a Rabbi who will charge them exorbitant amounts of money and demand total control over every aspect of their lives in exchange for the service.
This is often more true among those secular Israelis in gay-friendly Tel Aviv than it is among the religiously observant Orthodox communities in Jerusalem. The reason is obvious, but sometimes obvious things need to be said, that a person who thinks they’re okay with God because of religious observance will be far less open to hearing the Gospel than someone who doesn’t live an observant lifestyle and who therefore knows on some level that they need a relationship with God, whether they’d say they believe in Him or not.
Taking a trip out of our comfort zones
To sum up, because this blog has already gone on too long, the fields are ripe for harvest among Israeli Jews, and we should all be eagerly looking for ways we can be part of the crew that the Master sends into the fields to bring it in. But to do so, we’ve got to take off our rose-colored glasses, throw away the fairy tales and face Hard Truths. This is, by its very nature, uncomfortable. But Jesus never said that He came to this earth to make anyone comfortable. In fact, the fields of this particular harvest are far outside pretty much everyone’s comfort zone.
But taking that trip out of our comfort zones and into the fields of harvest will be worth it, as Paul writes in Romans 11: 11-15;
“I say then, they did not stumble so as to fall, did they? May it never be! But by their transgression salvation has come to the Gentiles, to make them jealous. Now if their transgression is riches for the world and their failure is riches for the Gentiles, how much more will their fulfillment be! But I am speaking to you who are Gentiles. Inasmuch then as I am an apostle of Gentiles, I magnify my ministry, if somehow I might move to jealousy my fellow countrymen and save some of them. For if their rejection is the reconciliation of the world, what will their acceptance be but life from the dead?”
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This article was originally posted on kehilanews.com and has been reposted with permission.